Race Ready in One Week

A seven-day plan for toeing the line on short notice

By Ed Eyestone

Many elites plan their racing calendars a year or more in advance. There are some right now who know that in order to be on the starting line of an Olympic final in Beijing in August 2008, they need to hit an A-standard qualifying time in a race in Brussels in August 2007, which means they have to run well in Palo Alto, California, next month. And then there’s my buddy Eric, who rolls out of bed on the weekend and decides he’s going to race a 5-K next Saturday after running only maintenance mileage all winter. For all the Erics out there, here’s what to do in the week before a spur-of-the-moment 5-K to ensure you run well enough that you’ll want to impulse-race again.

Sunday
The Workout: A few easy miles
Take it easy today since you can’t get in PR condition in just one week. Peak running performance is the result of consistent training over weeks, months, and years-not minutes, hours, and days. If you try to cram three months’ worth of training into one week, you’re far more likely to end up in rehab instead of on the starting line.

Monday
The Workout: Tempo run for the number of minutes it will take you to race the 5-K
If you think you can race the 5-K in about 20 minutes, do a 20-minute tempo run along with a one-mile warmup and one-mile cooldown. Running at this comfortable/hard intensity for the duration of the upcoming race will remind your body what faster running feels like.

Tuesday
The Workout: A few easy miles
Keep your race expectations modest. As you prepare throughout the week, focus on using the race to assess your fitness. Don’t even think about a PR. Instead, treat this race as a test to see how far removed you are from your most recent personal best. The results will then help you determine future training and racing.

Wednesday
The Workout: 2 x 800 meters @ goal race pace with equal time jog recovery between
The goal is to run a mile’s worth of distance at the pace you think you can maintain on race day. This short workout will help you determine what your race pace should be without wearing you out. If you struggle to complete the two repeats, the race pace you’re anticipating is too ambitious.

Thursday
The Workout: A few easy miles or a day off
Whether you run easy or take the day off, it won’t make a difference come Sunday. Do what feels right.

Friday
The Workout: 30-minute run followed by 4 x 100-meter strides
After running easy for 30 minutes, do four 100-meter strides at your projected 5-K race pace to simulate a strong finishing kick. The speed will wake up your fast-twitch muscle fibers and make your early race pace the next day (which will be a bit slower) feel much easier.

Saturday
Race day:To avoid starting out too fast, divide the race into thirds. The pace for your first mile should be conservative: at least 10 seconds slower than your projected race pace. During the middle mile, find your groove and settle into race pace. By running the first two-thirds of the race conservatively, you should be able to push the needle into the red a little during the final mile, allowing you to finish strong. Then, as soon as you can after the race, spend six to eight minutes in a cold bath or swimming pool. Although it won’t feel as good as a hot Jacuzzi, the frigid water will combat inflammation and help you recover faster so that you can start training in earnest for your next race.